Pro Bono Client Given Below-Guidelines Sentence and Released After Criminal Trial

August 30, 2021

Cleary Gottlieb represented Mr. K in his criminal trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in July 2021 before Judge Andrew L. Carter.

Mr. K was charged with possession of a weapon by an individual previously convicted of a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). At trial, in what is believed to be one of the first times the defense has been mounted in the Southern District of New York, Cleary argued that the government had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt an element of § 922(g) created by Rehaif v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), which requires the defendant to not only have possessed a weapon after having been previously convicted of a felony, but also to have known that they had previously been convicted of a felony. Cleary retained a noted neuropsychologist from NYU, who had previously been engaged by the National Football Association and the New York Giants to research head injuries among professional football players, to evaluate Mr. K. The neuropsychologist testified as an expert witness regarding the cumulative impact of Mr. K’s numerous traumatic brain injuries on his memory and ability to recall his felon status at the time of the offense.

The trial lasted over a week and involved competing expert testimony from the government. Notwithstanding the extensive evidence introduced by the government—including the firearm and bullets, and even multiple videotapes of the defendant possessing the weapon—the jury deliberated Mr. K’s case for over 11 hours. Ultimately, Mr. K was found guilty of violating § 922(g). Immediately after the verdict, Cleary moved for an expedited sentencing, which occurred within two weeks of the verdict. At sentencing, Cleary successfully advocated for Mr. K to be sentenced to time served, below the recommended Sentencing Guidelines range, and Mr. K was released one day later under a release plan arranged by Cleary that ensured transitional housing for Mr. K, as well as numerous services to help him reintegrate into the community and obtain adequate medical and mental health care.

Upon Mr. K’s release, Cleary attorneys personally escorted Mr. K to his new home, where he has been receiving help obtaining permanent housing, healthcare services, benefits, and employment.

Cleary was appointed to represent Mr. K by the Court under the Criminal Justice Act Panel.